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tv   Tavis Smiley  PBS  August 31, 2013 12:00am-12:31am PDT

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evening, from los angeles. tonight, a conversation with the jazz great wayne shorter. he is on a year-long tour to celebrate his 80th birthday. they have organized an all-star tribute concert at the hollywood bowl. later this year, he will debut his latest. he has also released a new cd net." "without a musicians don't get much better than wayne shorter beer and we are delighted to have a conversation with wayne shorter coming up right now.
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>> and by contributions to your pbs stations from viewers like you. thank you. tavis: when wayne shorter was studying music in the 1950s, he beer -- he first confused and then him pressed his professors
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by combining classical music with jazz. thatbegan his insistence musical barriers needed to be broken. his new cd is called "without a net." there are so many clips i can share with you about history career, but i decided to pick this one from 1967. ♪ ♪ tavis: congrats on the's 80
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years sir. >> thank you. tavis: what do you make of this 80-year journey so far? i said at my birthday party the other day that i'm eight. that same feeling that i had when i was eight years old, i'm collecting all of these statuettes of captain marvel and one woman. [laughter] tavis: let me ask it another way. still have feel to the pipes to do what you do at 80? >> a lot less oxygen now. one reason it helps not to have rehearsals and read music that is written because you have to play long lines with a lot of wind. tavis: right. >> so i have to find another way to express written improvisation improvisationwith pros a stati n and let the others have some
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voice, too. tavis: you made me think of alan iris and. -- alan iversen. practice? does that mean now that you don't spend as much time rehearsing? that is about improvisation on the stage? >> it is mostly about improvisation. how do you rehearse the future? how do you rehearse the unknown? say, when, he used to you practice something, you will go on stage and do variations of what you practiced. it's no surprise. the unknown, the unexpected is a reflection for me musically of what is happening in the world today. people are learning how to dialogue with each other without any past strategy or any kind of formula. tavis: for young person watching this, you are not suggesting
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that they don't have to spend time getting in the practice to become a wayne shorter when they. you can do this now. you could have done this 80 years ago. chris geyer foundation together. practice a lot of -- >> get your foundation together. practice a lot of skills and things like that. one student said to charlie parker, i have to learn all of these keys and scales/ -- and scales? and charlie parker said, yes. then forget it. tavis: [laughter] are you still learning new stuff? >> i am still learning. i am learning more about life when i'm playing, too. and writing music. i'm learning more about life, the connections. what we are doing is not disconnected from our human behavior.
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sometimes, you can fool people and be one way, like really negative in your human behavior. i want to erase the contradictions that have arisen too many times in the world. tavis: how does what you are learning about life even at 80 show up in your performance? how does that translate? >> when i am learning about life and when i hit the stage, the first thing i'm actually thinking about and other musicians, we are thinking about, ok, let's put away all of our credentials, our musical potential, grammys, wards, and -- awards, and keep the ego handcuffed and go out on the stage vulnerable.
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go out on the stage as a human being. showt be afraid to struggle in your music. there is struggle in life. there is struggle and victory in another victory and struggle. not going up there like you know it all and i'm perfect, like this is a perfect performance. that is passé to me. tavis: this is getting good now. i'm glad you went there. that is totally antithetical to the way most artists hit the stage these days. you want a good review so you better be rehearsed. you better be practiced. you better be ready. and now you are saying that the trick is to go on stage and be vulnerable. nobody wants to do that, struggle on stage. gloucester do that? -- wants to do that? what is the new york times good
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to say about that in the morning? >> to go -- to have the courage to go out there fearless and facing the unknown and how you negotiate the unexpected, these are the all musical lessons that we have. to make, it's like once upon a time. what are you going to say after once upon a time? not the music lessons anymore. the thing is to be more creative. pull out of the depths of our human existence the necessity for creative endeavor to change the world. a jazzwhat has been such artist all these years and working with so many greats -- what has that taught you about the value or the overrating of individuality? value ofow, the
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individuality comes to me when i used to see miles and coal train. sometimes i saw the many nightclubs playing. they would take their solos one after another. and they would be doing some stuff. silent night, nobody at best of me applauds. it's quite. -- it is quiet. they are not playing for and applause. then a plane for themselves either. when i got to me miles, he said, like, he is playing to get there. to get somewhere, to get somewhere. he didn't say at the expense of the audience. when he had his back turned, he was not just being an individual. he was listening closely more to the acoustics of the room. individual, to me, what
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we need more now is individuals becoming like leaders in life rather than followers. , becomingng that leaders, becoming much more respectful of each other as leader to leader, you have to respect each other and raise their life conditions to the point where we can respect each other. it is happening in the short increments now. small increments that i see popping up in a lot of young people in the classical world and the so-called jazz world. tavis: why did you say so-called jazz world? so-called? question the so-called jazz -- >> the so-called jazz world, the notion that, if it doesn't sound like jazz committees and. but to me, -- if it doesn't sell my jazz, it isn't. but to me, jazz means i dare you.
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[laughter] tavis: you mentioned leaders and followers and young people. can music teach all of that? as you all know, music is not being taught in schools the way it used to be. i think there's a huge price that are country pays for that -- that our country pays for that. what you think we're missing, what what we are lacking, what we are devoid of why not exposing kids to music in the way that we used to back in the day? >> when i went to nyu, in my last year, my fourth year, this teacher, medina scoville, she asked the whole class, how many of you had a hard time in math through the school and high school? the whole class raise their hand. she said, this is a music composition class. you are doing math now. and that slammed everybody in the face.
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when i'm writing scores, there is a lot of math involved. there won't be too much meth if you get -- there's not too much math involved if you get into a comfort zone. without music and art in the schools, there is a dummy down, simplistic -- it creates a statistic view of the student body at my simplest of you is being -- a simplest view is being presented. we are taught to go to sleep at the opera. [laughter] tavis: i hear your point. the answer to this question may be one and the same but let me ask anyway. when did wayne shorter know that he was gifted as an artist? and when did you know that this was going to be your life's work?
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just because you're gifted, doesn't mean you will choose it as your location, your calling, your purpose. when did that happen? >> i was playing hooky in arts high school in newark, new jersey. i skipped classes. tavis: not you. [laughter] >> i skipped a lot of classes. an economy -- and they caught me. the school had an intercom. they called me and the inner, go through all the classrooms. everybody was surprised. what if you do? wayne shorter, report to the principal's office immediately. , myer and father there fortune notes and fictitious doctors names. they said, before we decide what we are going to do with you, where did you go? i said come i went to the theater. they had a stage show and to motion pictures.
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it was stan kenton, do kelly, does he let's his band. gillespie's band. so you like the stage? he had on his desk three records. class, heay in his said -- he is a disciplinarian, too -- i'm not really thinking about music but how to get out of that class. [laughter] he said, there will be three directions. the first was a singer from peru named him a sumac. latin america. the second one was the right of spring by igor stravinsky. the third one was charlie parker , charles crystal -- charles christopher parker. so i took my final test. this was my third year of high school. and i got up.
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i was the first one to get up after a hundred questions are so. i thought i did something wrong. the teacher said, when you get up, you have to leave the classroom. she said, class, i want to show you something. she held my paper up. they couldn't see the answers. that she had on the front 100 or an a. she said, i want you to think about this because a lot of them had been studying is it since they were six years old. she said this is a perfect test paper knowing to think about it. i was walking down the hall and i was thinking about it, too. [laughter] tavis: there is a lot in that story that i could unpack, that tickles me and turns me on. the part that i am most moved by is, when you are skipping school iif that happened today, literally just months ago did a
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primetime special here for pbs called education under arrest. and the whole special is how we are comprising kids in society today. and the people don't really take the time to understand what the challenges, with the problem is, how gifted the child is, why the child might be skipping school -- nobody is asking. before we punish you, where were you going? you arrested me with that part of the story because somebody was interested enough to find out what you were doing, what mattered to you, what you are good at. and then before they punished you, they put you in that class and that is where the lightbulb goes off. as opposed to just locking you up and throwing away the key, sending you before some judge, getting kicked out of school for truancy -- which i still don't understand. they kick you out of school for skipping school. that doesn't make sense. but somebody cared enough back then to understand that you did have a gift and that your basement needed to include putting you -- that your
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punishment needed to include putting you where you could flower and flourish. >> when the other classes heard the name to be called to the printable's office, everybody was surprised. they said, you dress well. your mother and father are good people. your quiet and everything. it was industry -- why is he leaving? where did he go? tavis: where -- why were you leaving? itsome of the classes -- was, like, i wanted to go see this movie. i heard about other people doing it. but i went alone, never with a crowd. and some of the classes were -- i guess the word boring. i didn't think of the word boring. i would walk up to the school room, up to the school, walk house the building, turn the corner and go around to the theater. [laughter] to d'amico'st
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class -- i like his name, a keeley's d'amico. d'amico.es they called him to skinny me in a way they -- they called him tuscanini noa. louisvilleto the orchestra and every weekend. i didn't mind reading subtitles. i was watching all that stuff with all these people. , you know,ted drawing, painting, drawing what i wanted. i even drew the whole science fiction, book called "other worlds." me -- i went on to go to
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nyu as a music education major. and i met some people there in greenwich village and charlie ,arker would be -- eddie condon the nightclub, he would be sitting there eating sometimes. we got a chance to see ini, the conductor, rehearse sometimes. we could go to bird land with tito rodriguez sand dizzy gillespie's band. i said to myself, all of the stuff is happening and i am going in the army. [laughter] tavis: but when you got back, you made up for lost time. i could do this for hours with you. tell me about "without a net," the new project.
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>> the first time we played it in the nightclub, it was in san francisco. it was the first time in a long time. there was an actress there that i have known for years. --n enemy he -- and the nana venetta mcgee. we shookd out and hands. and as she was leaving, she said, you know, you guys are playing without a net. and she left. it didn't sink in. the later on, we were at lake forest university in north carolina. we were at a dinner and one scientist said -- we said the words without a net. he said, is that a song on the album? and that was it. that's the title.
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so mystically between venetta mcgee and this scientist, mystically they connected and it hit. so "without a net." tavis: the new work by wayne shorter is called "without a net." i will save my questions for another night because wayne shorter has brought a very special guest with him tonight and i am delighted to see her walk through the door. i take great pride in saying that my years ago, before the i had esperanza spalding on the show, long before she was a grammy winner for best new artist in 2011. believe it or not, she is sitting right over here. coming up in just a moment for my special performance with wayne shorter. a will be joined by esperance
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spalding -- esperanza spalding coming up in just a moment/ stay tuned. and now a special performance by wayne shorter joined by special guest artist. she was on this program long before she was honored as best new artist in 2011. wayne shorter joined by s bronze of spalding -- by esperanza spalding. please enjoy "footprints." good night from los angeles and keep the faith. ♪
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♪ [applause] >> for more information on today's show, visit tavis smiley at pbs.org. tavis: join me next time for precision about what may be driving the racial disparity and the practice of big business.
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is next time. we will see you then. >> and by contributions to pbs stations from viewers like you. thank you. >> be more.
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the following is a co-production of kqed and the center for investigative reporting. >> in california's fields, things are changing. crops are less plentiful. >> we're seeing two-thirds of a reduction in volume out of our southern growing regions. >> insects are more abundant. >> our temperatures have increased by two to three degrees fahrenheit, and that seems to be enough to keep them from being frozen out during the winter. i did end up losing one field -- probably a quarter of a million dollar hit. >> water, already scarce, is now too salty to sustain crops. >> if you don't have enough quality water to farm, then there's limits to what we can do with genetics. >> coming up -- climate change pushes california grower

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